Notes from “Negotiating Digital and traditional Literacies in Methods Classes: Preparing Future English Teachers for Teaching Writing”

Wow, March has been like a lion for me all the time. Sorry for the lack of posts.

At any rate, along with seeing New York City, I also saw some interesting sessions at CCCC 2007 last week. I will begin posting my notes and responses here with this session on methods courses.

I thought that the presenters were on the right track with this session, especially given that it was aimed at English Educators who would also be attending CCCC (like, for instance, me). Given that CCCC and the field of composition is generally more amenable to multiple forms of literacy, this type of presentation worked well at this conference. It suffered in attendance from the fact that it was late on Saturday afternoon, but I think that their final answer to my question — “transferability” — made a good deal of sense. So, here are some notes from the session:

Negotiating Digital and traditional Literacies in Methods Classes: Preparing Future English Teachers for Teaching Writing

Chris Denecker, The Univesity of Findlay – “Technology, Identity, and Teacher Prearation in the 21st Century”

  • Background
    • Being an English teacher used to mean onyl reading and writing. Today, teachers must integrate and impart a number of literacies in their classrooms.
    • Studies show that teachers are not as digitally literate as they should be and that pre-service teachers don’t feel confident in their abilities to use digital literacies in the classroom.
    • Technology has added to the conundrum of pedagogy and content, and now must be added into a cumbersome “to do list” for teacher educators.
    • Many teacher prep programs are not sufficiently answering the challenges of this problem according to NCATE, ISTE, and others, both on campus and in field experiences.
    • Educators are taking it upon themselves to implement and model technological pedagogies in their classrooms. How do we use technology and help pre-service teachers use it effectively?
  • Technology and Language Arts
    • ELA teachers often rely on computer teachers in labs. Nancy Deihl sees English teachers position themselves as “techno phobes” when they do Cyber Quests.
      • One of her students said that the Cyber Quest helps lessen the fear about technology.
    • Rising and Pope integrated technology in their ELA prep program pairing students in their teacher prep courses with middle schools students in an “e-pal” peer response group.
      • Pre-service teachers and middle school students enjoyed this.
    • Faculty doing these types of activities show promise and this needs to be more of a part of pre-service programs.
  • Overcoming Obstacles
    • New teachers need to overcome their own fears and maximize the time that they have available. Technology makes demands on teaching staff.
    • If we do this during teacher prep courses, then the pre-service teachers will have models to work from when they entre their own classrooms.
    • Technology can be motivational and help students publish good work and control their own learning.
    • For teachers, it can help store and retrive info and communicate with students and parents. All of this needs to be communicated to teacher educators preparing new teachers.
  • Why?
    • We need to assess the purposes for using technology. If we mirror traditional pedagogies, then it is not useful.
    • What are the goals attached to a digital literacy project? How does it contribute to the “whole” of their digital literacy?
    • Jester (English Education, 2002) – integrating technology into the writing process, focusing on multimedia and hypertextual aspects.
  • Personal experience
    • Use of Blackboard to share drafts, pre-write, revise, etc.
    • Kristine Blair’s “studio review” — have students move from computer to computer and put comments on the documents with Word.
  • Technological Pedagogies
    • Research shows that students do engage with technology
    • Begin with email, digital cameras, and iPods
    • Students can respond to one another through virtual pen pals, snap pictures and then write about details, engage in cyber quests, poetry websites, how-to speeches/videos, create newscasts, research and create PPTs
    • Incorporate place for a class “common place book” as a space for students to document and comment on their evolving relationship to writing (grabbing quotes and other materials to create a discussion starter)

Christine Tulley, The Univesity of Findlay

      • Background
        • As director of English Education programs, she sees many people: non-English majors seeking certification, second-career seekers, teachers wanting to move to community college, and graduate students seeking a certificate and degree all at once
      • Looming Problems with this kind of class
        • Writing Theory
          • These students do not have a writing theory course in their background (process vs product) for instance
        • Technology
          • They come to the program with a variety of program experiences and uses of the internet; skills from the workplace without direct connection to pedagogy
        • Training College Teachers (Methods)
          • Trying to meet the needs of those who want to become English Educators
      • Solutions
        • Writing Theory
          • Doing something with students each week with a practical applciation of a writing technology.
        • Technology
          • Use the technologies that they already know so they are comfortable with it and can think about it in different ways (comments and tracking changes in Word) and then they give feedback to students in her first year composition courses
          • Use traditional things that everyone has access to and do them in a different way. For instance, use PPT to express creative writing with graffiti writing and flash poetry
      • NCTE and alternative licensure
        • NCTE does recommends doing this by integrating technology into the coursework as well

      Emily Kemp, Groveport Madison High School

      • What do you wish you learned in your writing methods class in college?
        • I still struggle with revising and editing, trying to help students figure out how and why to change what they have written. They are concerned with how long it needs to be and what they need to do, and they are not concerned with making the writing better. I have to go back to the basics and use lots of form writing although I am trying to challenge them to get into creating digital texts.
      • What would you say technology is affecting you?
        • Using wifi laptops to have students compose PPTs and bring in United Streaming materials to show videos.
      • What was taught well in your methods classes that you think we should still do?
        • In doing a research paper, I enjoy showing students drafts of early and poor work so that they can learn from the models. Kids see other people’s writing and are better able to understand what it is that they are supposed to do. I have students use the rubrics from my college comp classes and write reflections on what they have done when they create a paper.

      Conclusion

      Teachers need to be digitally literate do that they can have timely, student-centered approaches to instruction. Also, teachers need to be confident with technological practices so that they can encourage students to be digitally literate, too.

      My Question for Them with Their Responses

      So, the tension lies between the types of writing that are assessed (generally formulaic) and emerging genres in writing (multimedia and hypertext), what do you suggest as a balance of assignments in a writing methods course?

      • Have them create a problem/solution paper based on a topic in writing (for instance, how to get students revised or motivating a reluctant student).
      • Skills that they learn need to be transferable from one context/platform to another. So, talk about the literacy skills embedded in the technology, not just the technology in particular.

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